Indispensibles

Many people have asked us before, during and after our trip how we travelled with enough stuff to provide for four people for three months.

Thumbing through the the 4000+ photos we made during our trip, we discovered that unfortunately there’s no picture of what the pile of luggage we hauled from airplanes onto trains, buses, boats, into dozens of hotels, taxis and even tuktuks looked like.

To tell you the truth, that depended on the matter of transport. Altogether, we had one very large suitcase/trolley, one 100 liter backpack, one backcarrier with a 40 liter pack attached to it, one stroller, a small trolley for Matthijs’ toys and books and a very small pack for Kims toys, a shoulderbag or daypack for the stroller and a shoulderbag for each of the two adults.

On airplanes with a limit on the number of pieces and the weight of check-in luggage we narrowed the check-in luggage down to three large pieces: the suitcase, and two flightbags: one containing the backpack, the other with the backcarrier, and as much other stuff that we could stuff into it without exceeding the maximum weight AND the maximum pressure the seams of the flightbag could take (truth allowed: we had to mend it again and again for the last 3 flights…). The stroller we could take to the gate and was never counted as check-in luggage. Surprisingly we managed to keep down the hand luggage to one piece per person – if you don’t count Kim’s small backpack seperately.

Travelling on any non-airborne transport, where not the maximum weight or the number of packs counted, but rather the question how two adults could transport all the luggage minus Matt’s small trolley in one go.

In practise, that manner of transport came down as follows. Patrick carries the large backpack on his back, his shoulderbag underneath, and pulls the large suitcase/trolley. Matt pulls his own small trolley, and Noëlle carries the fully packed backcarrier with Kim with her shoulderbag underneath, the daypack for the stroller and drags the folded stroller.

It may sound surprising – even to us now -, but we travelled basically all of Vietnam in the non-airborne manner, most of the times carrying drinks and food with us as well, but we never experienced it as undoable or even slightly too much. We even had quite an efficient way of unpacking and repacking all the items necessary for night train trips in sleeper carriages in just over 15 minutes – with two excited kids bouncing around us in the 3,5 square meter compartment we were confined to with the four of us.

We were absolutely fine travelling like that during our 4+ weeks in Vietnam, but if someone asks us now: would you have travelled longer if you could have, we can quite honestly answer: not in the Vietnam way. We would have loved to be able to stay in Nick and Katrina’s wonderful place for a couple of more weeks (months..?!) if we could have, but in the respect of travelling from hotel to hotel and country to country without private transport, we definitely reached the summit of what we would categorise as ‘having a wonderful time’.

And, in retrospect, did we need and use everything we brought? Of course not. For instance, we could supply a small army with the stash of dehydration salts sachets we never needed or touched by the time we got home. The warm clothing we packed was also quite useless in the 20+ ˚C-places we went to. Some of that stuff, such as the 3 sheet bags (synthetic ultra thin sleeping bags), we threw out as soon as we realised how useless it was carrying them along with us.

However, a few items we brought we definitely couldn’t have done without. We would even entitle them as ‘indispensible for travelling families’:

tentje1. Deryan Travel Cot. A little pack of 2 kilos, that automatically folds into baby bed that looks like a miniature trekking tent if you release the ties. A lightweight, compact, portable mosquito-free baby bed. We have used it every night for Kim, except in Australia when we could use Oliver’s baby bed. We even used the Deryan in the overnight trains in Vietnam and Thailand. We couldn’t have done without.

2. Two lengths of nylon rope. Ideal to tie the Deryan Travel Cot to the upper berth in the overnight trains we took, used a number of times as a very long laundry drying line, useful to tie loose pieces of luggage to the backpack or back carrier, etc…

3. Duct tape. As a gross omission, we forgot to bring some. Since Vietnam is a wonderful country, but horrible to find certain utility items, such as permanent markers and, as it turned out, duct tape, we had to rely on the sacred roll of duct tape that the Pankys (the British family we met and hung out with a couple of days in Vietnam) were smart enough to bring along. By the way, don’t forget to watch the instruction video of how to cross a Hanoi street that they made and put on their Tumblr-site.

4. A sewing kit with very strong thread (called ijzergaren in Dutch). Only for the grace of our ijzergaren-kit did our two flightbags survive our trip until the very end. We take the kit along on every trip, and we have used it every time.

5. Leukoplast. Don’t know what the English name is, but it’s the band aid like tape you use to tape a bandage – the kind that leaves nasty, dirty and irremovable sticky marks and is better de-hairer than any bikiniwax if you stick it on bare skin. Can be used for repairing kid’s sunglasses, headphones, a protective skin around sharp edges, etc. Even Paul, the  police officer we met on the boat in Halong had to admit it was the stupidest thing he left at home…

6. A bit of faith in your children’s ability to adjust to foreign food as long as it’s fresh and prepared (i.e. thouroughly heated) on the premises, and natural instinct to survive ‘difficult countries’ as Dutch writer and publicist Jelle Brandt Corstius calls them. If you have no idea what we are talking about: we’re sorry but you don’t have it and you won’t get it.

7. Not for everybody, but Patrick wouldn’t have been able to remain un-miffed if he hadn’t retrieved his Tilly Hat after he left it in the ‘lobby’ of our wonderful Bangkok hotel the Lamphu Tree House. That hat has been with us since our first abroad trip together in 2004, and has travelled with us to every faraway and not so faraway country we have visited since then. We’re both very happy that it’s still with us.

Location:Rijswijk, The Netherlands

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